For many of South Africa’s fast-growing technology companies, expansion into new countries and markets is a top priority. Indeed, it is a natural next step for companies that are looking to widen their reach, increase profits and become truly global competitors. Given that technology innovation is advancing at breakneck speed, there is also growing demand internationally for skilled IT service providers and talented teams.
Having recently set up a new office and software offering in the United Kingdom, our executive team has gained key insights into what to do – and what not to do – when entering a new market. For SA business leaders and entrepreneurs who have their sights set abroad, here are our key learnings from a successful expansion into the UK…
1. Find a trusted local partner
When expanding abroad, leaders don’t have the luxury of leaning on their South African networks and support systems. That is why it is imperative to find a strategic partner in your new market who has extensive local knowledge – and is willing to integrate you into their network and business ecosystem.
When working with this partner, it is critical to develop a trusting and open relationship – and to quickly demonstrate the value that you can bring to the table. This means, for example, reducing the legwork that is required of your partner and taking on as much as possible internally.
The key to success here is to be able to move and respond very quickly, providing detailed proposals and quotes that are easy to understand and action. In order to be nimble and responsive, make sure that you have the skills and resources available within your teams. When crafting proposals, for example, we draw on our Business Analysts and Product Owners to provide compelling business cases that are not only informative but also visually engaging and easy to understand.
2. Master the pain points
Every market has different challenges and pain points, just as every company and client has different pain points. When establishing a new presence, devote a great deal of time to understanding the unique pain points of customers in the market. This understanding should then shape your strategy and your offering. Importantly, be open to change – and to pivoting on the strategy or plan you initially entered with! For example, we entered with a broad offering of enterprise software solutions for retail clients – yet as we became more immersed in the UK environment, we began to narrow our focus and concentrate on developing enterprise mobile solutions for hardware players.
To succeed in addressing pain points, you must not only demonstrate your own credibility and expertise, but you must also innovate within your vertical. For example, our UK customers were often daunted by the cost of software licences which needed to be renewed annually.
To address this challenge, we develop highly customised mobile applications and enable customers to pay a once off fee to own the software, and the intellectual property (IP). If the once off fee is not manageable for clients, we work with finance houses to provide a financing option whereby the software development fee is paid off over an agreed period of time. This allows customers to purchase customised solutions which they essentially own – and no longer have to worry about annual licensing fees.
3. Take the lead on innovation
Whether you are opening a new office in the UK or elsewhere, decision-makers always have the option of near-shoring or offshoring certain requirements. With this in mind, it is critical to demonstrate the value you can bring as an in-country partner. Given that disruption is the theme of technology today, one of the quickest ways to prove your value is to innovate and bring new (and unexpected) solutions to persistent problems. Be proactive… and take the lead, even when you have not been asked to do so! This might mean investing time and resources into projects or applications that are merely used to stimulate ideas and discussions. In the long term, however, these proactive projects almost always pay huge dividends.
Within the mobile enterprise space, for example, we built demo applications using OCR (optical character recognition) that enabled users to scan various ID documents (passports, driver licences, etc) as a form of verification. This approach also establishes you as a trusted, consultative partner – instead of a once-off supplier or service provider.
On a broader note, South African technology companies are well-positioned to enter developed markets such as the UK and Europe and make an immediate impact. We have a great pool of home-grown talent, our English language proficiency makes us immediately attractive, and the time zone enables easy cross border collaboration. That said, the global marketplace is increasingly cutthroat – and you have to demonstrate your value very quickly in order to become a trusted provider in any market today…
About redPanda Software
redPanda Software is a specialist enterprise retail software developer with a focus on customer experience. With a proven track record of long-term partnerships in South Africa, Botswana and the UK, redPanda Software caters for retailers who want to position themselves competitively, by adding a layer of customisation to their client’s software to cater to client-specific needs. Their success is underpinned by their “Way to Grow” ethos which is the driving force behind its distinguishing advantage to grow curiosity, creativity and confidence and in turn benefit their customers, operations and people.
For more information on redPanda Software, visit www.redpandasoftware.com
About Leon Coetzer: UK MD
Leon holds both a Computer Systems diploma and an Enterprise Architect qualification. He has more than 20 years of experience in the software industry, with extensive experience in enterprise software development.
Prior to joining redPanda Software, Leon was a Senior Development Manager, working closely at an executive level with various corporate companies. Through this involvement, he gained an intimate appreciation of the workings of large corporates.
Leon has a strong background in implementing and improving the full systems development cycle (SDLC), with a preference for agile methodologies and tools, and technical abilities in architecting and overseeing projects using a wide range of technologies and frameworks.
Responsible for strategy and operations in the UK, Leon brings a unique blend of technical and business knowledge to the redPanda Software team.
Small SA town goes smartphone-only
Vodacom partners with farming business to upgrade all residents of Wakkerstroom from 2G devices to smartphones
All residents of the small town of Wakkerstroom, which straddles Mpumalanga and kwaZulu-Natal provinces, have had their 2G feature phones upgraded to 3G devices.
The initiative is a result of Vodacom partnering with BPG Langfontein, a farming business that employs the majority of the people living in Wakkerstroom. It is now the first smartphone-only town in South Africa. This is a model the network provider says it hopes to replicate across the country as part of its mission to connect people who live in deep rural areas and are still dependent on 2G networks.
Wakkerstroom, is the second oldest town in Mpumalanga province, on the KwaZulu-Natal border, 27 km east of Volksrust and 56 km south-east of Amersfoort.
“There are growing expectations for big corporates the size of Vodacom to serve a social purpose, and for us to use our resources and core capabilities to make a significant contribution in transforming the lives of ordinary people,” says Zakhele Jiyane, Managing Executive for Vodacom Mpumalanga. “We are helping to remove communication barriers, so that citizens in the area can be part of the digital revolution and reap the associated benefits. By moving the more than 1400 farm workers from 2G to 3G devices, this will also free much needed spectrum and this spectrum can be re-farmed to provide for faster networks such as 3G and 4G.
“Crucially, the move opens a new world of connectivity for farm workers in Wakkerstroom. As a result, most people in the area will now be able to use the Vodacom network to connect on the net and access online government services, eHealth services such as Mum&Baby and eCommerce. Learners can now surf the internet for the first time and access Vodacom’s eSchool free of charge and those who are actively looking for jobs can start using their smartphones and tablets to apply for jobs over the internet on Vodacom’s zero-rated career sites. This will be key for driving growth to the benefit of people living in this area.”
Vodacom has already deployed 4G base stations in Wakkestroom as part of this initiative.
For the next phase of this project, says Vodacom, it is going to educate the farm workers about data and the benefits of the Internet. Vodacom will also look at various ways in which it can help empower members of this community in areas of education, gender-based violence and health.
Facebook fact-checking goes to 10 more African countries
Facebook today announced the expansion of its Third-Party Fact-Checking programme to 10 additional African countries, which now join Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon and Senegal in the project,
In partnership with Agence France-Presse (AFP), the France 24 Observers, Pesa Check and Dubawa, this programme forms part of its work in helping assess the accuracy and quality of news people find on Facebook, whilst reducing the spread of misinformation on its platform.
Working with a network of fact-checking organizations, certified by the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network, third-party fact-checking will now be available in Ethiopia, Zambia, Somalia and Burkina Faso through AFP, Uganda and Tanzania through both Pesa Check and AFP, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cote d’Ivoire through the France 24 Observers and AFP, Guinea Conakry through the France 24 Observers, and Ghana through Dubawa.
Feedback from the Facebook community is one of many signals Facebook uses to raise potentially false stories to fact-checkers for review. Local articles will be fact-checked alongside the verification of photos and videos. If one of our fact-checking partners identifies a story as false, Facebook will show it lower in News Feed, significantly reducing its distribution.
Kojo Boakye, Facebook Head of Public Policy, Africa, said: “The expansion of third-party fact-checking to now cover 15 countries in a little over a year shows firsthand our commitment and dedication to the continent, alongside our recent local language expansion as part of this programme. Taking steps to help tackle false news on Facebook is a responsibility we take seriously, we know misinformation is a problem, and these are important steps in continuing to address this issue. We know that third-party fact-checking alone is not the solution, it is one of many initiatives and programmes we are investing in to help to improve the quality of information people see on Facebook. While we’ve made great progress, we will keep investing to ensure Facebook remains a place for all ideas, but not for the spread of false news.”
When third-party fact-checkers fact-check a news story, Facebook will show these in Related Articles immediately below the story in News Feed. Page Admins and people on Facebook will also receive notifications if they try to share a story or have shared one in the past that’s been determined to be false, empowering people to decide for themselves what to read, trust, and share.
Providing fact-checking in English and French across eight countries, Phil Chetwynd, AFP Global News Director said: “AFP is delighted to be expanding its fact-checking project with Facebook. We are known for the high quality of our journalism from across Africa and we will be leveraging our unparalleled network of bureaus and journalists on the continent to combat misinformation.”
Eric Mugendi, Managing Editor from Pesa Check who will provide fact-checking services in Swahili and English added: “Social networks like Facebook haven’t just changed how Africans consume the news. Social media is often the primary access to digital content or the ‘Internet’ for many Africans. They shape our perceptions of the world, our public discourse, and how we interact with public figures. This project helps us dramatically expand our fact-checking to debunk claims that could otherwise cause real-world harm. The project helps us respond more quickly and directly. We’re seeing real positive results in our interactions with both publishers and the public itself. The project also helps our fact-checks reach a far larger audience than we would otherwise. This has helped us better understand the information vacuum and other viral dynamics that drive the spread of false information in Africa. Our growing impact is a small but tangible contribution to better informed societies in Africa.”
Caroline Anipah, Programme Officer, Dubawa (Ghana) said: “Dubawa is excited to be in Ghana where the misinformation and disinformation have become widespread as a result of technological advancement and increasing internet penetration. Dubawa intends to raise the quality of information available to the public with the ultimate aim of curbing the spread of misinformation and disinformation and promoting good governance and accountability.”
Derek Thomson, editor-in-chief of the France 24 Observers, said: “Our African users are constantly sending us questionable images and messages they’ve received via social media, asking us ‘Is this true? Can you check it?’ It’s our responsibility as fact-checking journalists to verify the information that’s circulating, and get the truth back out there. Participating in the Facebook programme helps ensure that our fact-checks are reaching the people who shared the false news in the first place.”